Jesse and Ruth Starr of Minot, North Dakota are passionate about seeing God’s power and blessing on Apostolic Faith Church and the Minot area. Their three children — Jared, Jonathan and Jessica — are an integral part of the lives and ministry of their parents and are committed to seeing people who need Jesus have the opportunity to come to a personal relationship with Him. The Starrs believe that everyone should experience the same salvation that the Apostles preached in Acts 2:38-40. “Our goal is to reach out into the community and invite them to a life-changing experience at Apostolic Faith Church,” Bro. Starr said.
PRINCIPLES OF GROWTH & REVIVAL
“Prayer, positive church atmosphere, family stability, and sound doctrine are the keys to church growth. Also, facilitating people to their evangelism passions and leading by example are important,” Bro. Starr stated.
Ministries and methods used for increasing attendance include Sunday school, Van Ministry, Starting Point, discipleship programs, follow-up on every visitor, block parties, as well as incorporating evangelism concepts in all departments. “Our aim is to create a venue that will encourage guests to become involved in our church,” he said. “We want to build relationships between guests and church members.” Bro. Starr listed various means and ways to accomplish their goals: 1. Connect Point Dinners, held on a regular basis, create a comfortable atmosphere where guests can get to know the people that make up the church. 2. Organized family and friends’ game nights at the church every 4th Sunday. Volleyball, basketball, softball, and group games make up the agenda. 3. Orientation is a welcome from the pastor and an opportunity to receive information and ways that a guest can become involved in Apostolic Faith Church. 4. Through guest follow-up, members are active in establishing a relationship with each guest. First-time guests receive a gift, second-time visitors receive a book, and each third-time guest receives an invitation to the upcoming orientation with the pastor.
ORGANIZATION & MANAGEMENT
Departments and ministries in the church consist of Youth Ministry, Ladies Ministry, including Daughters of Zion, Music Ministry, Men’s Ministry, Bus Ministry, Media Ministry, and Mission Point Ministry (outreach).
“We have ministry descriptions for each department or ministry leader; we meet with our leaders once per month, we have a bi-monthly minister tag-in, and a weekly tag-in with assistants, and future ministers’ training once per month,” explained Pastor Starr. “We have yearly planning sessions and monthly tag-ins.
“All our ministries are focused on either evangelism or equipping saints. A very high percentage of our members are involved in some form of ministry. About 80 percent are involved in evangelism. If someone is not involved in ministry, it is by his or her conscious choice. Involvement is promoted and encouraged by personal relationships, preaching and teaching emphasis on evangelism and ministry. We make a conscious effort to disciple people until they are plugged into an area of ministry. The Starting Point program involves each person that has started or completed the salvation process in a 10-week Discipleship Class that will instruct them how to be a Christian and how to start this new life in God. This course is held weekly, and class attendees receive a certificate of graduation upon completion. We also have another 10-week course called Launch Point, where we teach practical and Biblical principles of holiness and separation from the world. It is our intent that each graduate of Launch Point classes will be prepared to be actively involved in the work of the Kingdom of God.”
Pastor Starr listed several deep guiding principles and philosophies that give his ministry direction and purpose. “There are five core values in our church: God, family, integrity, commitment and passion,” he said. “These are the framework through which we live out the doctrine. One important area is passion. If people are connected with their passion in the kingdom, growth will result. They will be excited and will excite the people around them.
“People need teaching. We deliberately have church together for teaching mid-week, and then have classes through our Mission Point and ministry training for people to grow and mature. We try to incorporate opportunities for instruction in special group sessions with ladies, youth, men’s prayer, etc.
“Passionate preaching is important. The church atmosphere needs to be positive. There are times when you have to preach and teach about areas that need consecrated or changed. Always give people hope. The ultimate hope is Jesus. The preacher needs to point people to Jesus and then get out of the way. Never preach what you don’t live. Be an example.
“Lead your church somewhere. Pastors are not always leaders, but if they want to have a growing church they must learn to lead. A call to preach does not mean you can lead. Yet, if people do not have somewhere to go, they will stagnate, or natural leaders will emerge and take the people a direction you don’t want them to go. It is necessary for pastors to hone and strengthen their leadership skills for the sake of momentum, unity and growth.”
Pastor Starr enumerated some target groups that he considers the “focus” of AFC ministry: (1) Backsliders. “My dad was backslidden, and some preachers took time with him. It took a number of years for him to stabilize and become what God desired for him to be. Today he is still in the ministry, after starting six churches and mentoring other churches. He has four sons and a daughter in the ministry. I am glad some preachers were there for him. I want to be there for someone else. (2) Youth. “Our young people must ‘get it’ for themselves. Tradition, legacy or cooperation is not enough. They must have a passion, doctrinal knowledge and personal involvement in order for there to be a strong church.” (3) Ministry. “We need men called of God to give themselves to ministry. It is a passion of mine to see young ministers develop and become what God has called them to be.”
A host of evangelism events and activities that have brought good results are: (a) Friends Day (held four times a year), (b) annual block parties, (c) holiday services and dramas, (d) the “Gaining Apostolic Power” Conference – a conference to enrich the ministry. (e) Bus Ministry: where captains and workers contact Sunday school bus kids and their families. (f) Card Ministry: a weekly commitment to pass out church business cards and invitations for Friends Day and other special services. (g) Door to Door Outreach Team, which includes Sunday school outreach. (h) Life Style Evangelism: “Like begets like, people reaching friends, families and co-workers,” explained Pastor Starr. “We are on the edge of the oil fields and feel a responsibility to give those in the oil industry a church to connect with. We found that an intentional approach of orienting and loving them has made our church a home.”
Pastor Starr discussed the history of Apostolic Faith Church. “Charles and Judy Bollinger arrived May 28, 1969 fresh from Texas Bible College with a desire to birth a church in Minot,” he said. “The first church service was June 4, 1969. Four months after arriving they rented and later purchased a building at 7th and 21st streets. This would be our building for 24 years. We saw consistent growth at this location and many miracles and peoples’ lives changed by the power of the Holy Ghost. One awesome story from this location: a member was mowing the grass and invited a family that was in Minot for rummage sales. The family came to service that night, and both the husband and wife received the Holy Ghost. That family now has four generations attending.
“Outreach methods used in those early years were Bus Ministry and home Bible studies. In 1992, we were bursting at the seams with 80 to 85 people on a Sunday. Bro. G.W. Pearson began to tell the church we needed to build. It was amazing to see the response of the people of AFC. Members began to sacrifice and give – sold their possessions, gave of their savings, etc.”
Pastor Starr said a key component of the church’s growth has been strong pastoral leadership. With 45 years of church history, almost 40 of those years have been pastored by three men: Bro. Charles Bollinger (1969-1977), Bro. G.W. Pearson (1984-2008), and Bro. Jesse Starr (2008-current).
“In 2008, we were averaging around 120,” he said. “Our recent Easter attendance was 206. The church is averaging 155 people per Sunday. In the last several months we have seen several come as a result of just feeling drawn by the Spirit of the Lord. We have had healings, backsliders returning, and a powerful witness of the Holy Ghost. The unity of the church is very powerful. Perhaps the most telling aspect of unity would be the smooth transition when my family and I came to Minot. The previous pastor, Bro. Vaughn Pearson, remained along with his dad, Bro. Gilbert Pearson. Both remain to this day, with Vaughn Pearson now the assistant and part-time on staff. We have been blessed with stability during church transitions. Not once was there ever any conflict. The congregation embraced the new leadership and everyone is working together for the common cause of souls.”
Apostolic Faith Church is housed in a building that is approximately 12,000 square feet. It seats 245 and includes a gym/fellowship hall. “Our classrooms surround our gym,” explained Pastor Starr. “Our classroom space is cramped at this time, which is a good problem to have. We also have an evangelist’s quarters. The building was constructed in two phases. We are going into the third phase, hopefully starting this summer.”
Bro. Starr shared a unique story of how they acquired this facility: “In the 1970s, the Bollingers, who started the work, felt God lead them to a gravel road on the edge of town, and there they found a farmer’s field. They felt God deal with them that this should be the place of the church someday. After much personal sacrifice, they purchased four acres of land. Little did they know that the little gravel country road would become a main highway connecting north and south Minot. The land sat there for over 15 years until Bro. Gilbert Pearson led the church to build on it.
“The Bollingers visited the church for its 40th anniversary and once more prayed that God would enable the church to acquire more property to accommodate growth. Months later, we purchased an additional seven acres for $84,000. The timing was perfect because now that same land would cost around $250,000 per acre.
“We now have 10.6 acres debt-free and are currently raising money for the next phase. We expect to expand our seating to 400 people. The architect is finishing up the plans, and we should be ready to start this summer. We have a next phase concept after this which will seat around 800. This will also include converting our current sanctuary into additional classrooms.”
Pastor Starr grew up as the son of a home missionary who started churches all over the Northwest. He received the Holy Ghost at age nine, and at age twelve felt the call of God on his life. He shared some events from his youth that influenced his ministry. “My father went to a logging camp in Alaska and started a church there when I was twelve,” he said. “It was a turning point in my life. Coffman Cove, Alaska was extremely remote and during the three years we were there it was very isolated. No stores, phones, radios — nothing. It was during that time that I listened to a tape of Rev. N.A. Urshan preaching and even though I had received the Holy Ghost when I was nine, I felt God calling me into a deeper walk with Him. After that message, I slipped away to my room and committed the rest of my life to God. The next several years I studied intensely and built the foundation from Scripture that I still draw from today.” Several individuals that influenced Pastor Starr’s ministry include his father, Alfred Starr, Bro. Gary Gleason, Bro. N.A. Urshan, and Sunday school teachers.
Bro. Starr recounted when he began his ministry: “At about 13 years of age in Coffman Cove, Alaska, I began to play the guitar and to teach. It was there that I first taught the Adult Bible Class while my dad was out of town. My first sermon was in Palmer, Alaska as a junior in high school. I held my first revival in Anchorage, Alaska when I was a junior in high school. I attended Apostolic Bible Institute and graduated in 1987.”
Bro. and Sis. Starr met at Apostolic Bible Institute in St. Paul, Minnesota and married in June of 1988. “We started a church in Newberg, Oregon in 1991, and became pastor in Hillsboro, Oregon in 1994; we then moved to Minot in September of 2008. The circumstances that led us to take this church were unique. I received a phone call out of the blue, politely prayed about it and the next thing we knew my family and I were moving to Minot to be with this wonderful church family. The transition was smooth, and the momentum has continued to be positive. I cannot express enough my appreciation to Bro. Vaughn Pearson and Bro. Gilbert Pearson for their excellent work and cooperation. We are in a day when smooth transitions are imperative if we are to continue the work in our Apostolic churches. We cannot afford to let egos and personal agendas derail us from our purpose, that of reaching the lost and feeding the church.”
Pastor Starr has served in a number of ministerial capacities through the years, including youth pastor, Christian educator and assistant pastor. He was youth director for the state of Oregon for 14 years, young minister’s mentor, Sectional Presbyter and Men’s Director, and District Superintendent – North Dakota – 2011-2014.
Sis. Ruth Starr has served 13 years as sectional Women’s Ministries director and serves selflessly in the local church. Some of her areas of ministries have included Christian education, young mother mentorship, coordinator of catering and serving.